Libra: The Effects of Conspiracy and Contingency Questions

Skip Willman, Traversing the Fantasies of the JFK Assassination: Conspiracy and Contingency in Don DeLillo’s Libra 

“He feels he is living at the center of an emptiness. He wants to sense a structure that includes him, a definition clear enough to specify where he belongs” (DeLillo 357)

“Within these interconnected narratives, DeLillo ‘traverses’ the underlying social fantasies of conspiracy theories and contingency theories, the two diametrically opposed conceptions of ‘social reality’ at work in the interpretation of the JFK assassination” (Willman, 407).

What does the Kennedy conspiracy provide Oswald and in turn, Everett? Are their motivations different or the same? Do their motivations say something about American society? How does conspiracy and contingency work in the two narratives of Oswald and the CIA conspiracy according to Willman?

The Church and State: K’s Interaction with the Priest

-Kate

I found K’s interaction with the priest was very interesting, especially near the end of their conversation when the priest says that he, a religious official, belongs to the court, a secular entity (Kafka, 224).

The priest represents multiple versions of “the Law”, the religious law as well as the standard social law in which K finds himself a prisoner of during his trial. The two men discuss law within the space of the cathedral, with the priest elevated and under an intense light whilst K remains in shadow. K looks to this man for guidance, perhaps of a different nature in regards to his situation and the priest proceeds to give him the analogy of the doorman. At the end of their conversation, the priest reiterates that he is the prison chaplain and is still a part of the system that is imprisoning K.

Indeed, the whole cathedral scene resembles a courtroom, with the chaplain standing in the pulpit and addressing K with a certain authority that is reminiscent of a court judge sitting on the Bench. The priest gives K advice on the law and how his case is going as a lawyer would.

I found this scene interesting because there is always the stress in government about the separation of Church and State yet, as we see with this interaction between K and a member of the clergy, members of the Church are still subject to secular law, that the Law is permeating in all walks of life and like the law, the priest shows K the way out when he’s done with him in a rather cold manner despite the personal conversation that the two had. It is here that he is still a servant of the court as the prison chaplain and as such, he will leave K to his fate as their time is now at an end.

Desire and Emotion

When reading Hamsun’s Hunger the connections between the narrator’s desires and emotions once he “attains” what he desires, the recognition by society, and in these few passages, the recognition by women, that he then reacts negatively, despite it being his unconscious desire.

When the narrator brushes against a woman and she blushes, the narrator calls her a great beauty, the most beautiful thing that he has ever seen and is overtaken by a desire to make the woman afraid (Hamsun, 11). He calls out to her that she had dropped her book, despite the fact that she never had one and she leaves the scene with the narrator following her all the way home.

Another interaction with a woman dressed all in black notes the narrator’s desire to be noticed. This being the third time that he has seen her recently wearing the same black clothing he automatically assumes that her visage concerns him (102). The narrator’s desire to be seen by the outside world has been accomplished when they make eye contact and this sparks various emotions within him, nervousness as to why she is “interacting” with him and the desire to also help her but also feeling insecure as to his lack of finances that would eventually in what is led to believe a romantic encounter that he cannot afford.

His greatest desire is to be recognized and when he is spotted by a woman that he perceives in a positive light as does she with him, his first and instant reaction is to get this attention away from him or to retaliate this positive attention with negative attention and to receive it in return. Whatever attention that the narrator receives is welcome yet it seems that he wants more than one kind of attention whether it be sexual or fear-based on the instance with the beautiful woman and the woman in black.

The Letter’s Destination is Destiny

-Kate Walsh

Derrida’s analysis of Lacan’s reading of Poe’s Purloined Letter delves into the truth in relation to the letter and the fact that it has multiple meanings and significance to the person who possesses it.

In the text, the letter is believed to contain sensitive information based on the way that the Queen (who we presume is the woman in the story) hides the letter from the King (the unnamed husband) and her response in getting the letter back from the Minister. To the Minister, the letter is important to him only because he perceives the value of it to the Queen and uses it for his own personal gain in extorting the Queen politically with the unspoken threat that he poses with this information that the audience is never introduced to.

The Prefect has no personal connection to the letter, has no idea of the contents and sees it only as a job, an object that is desired by now three parties, which we find out later, has a financial reward attached to it, providing enough motivation and importance to the object in question for its discovery.

To Dupin, the letter holds no real significance, as he finds the actual story of trying to find the object more enticing than the actual significance attached to the letter. The only reason why he goes and takes the letter is that Dupin and the Minister have a history and this is Dupin’s way of getting him back.

The real question is, is there only one in destination for the letter (or any letters) if it means something different to everyone who possesses if for any short amount of time, regardless of the contents?

Yes, the letter may have been sent to the Queen but seeing that it pass through so many different hands and see its impact that it has on each handler, it doesn’t seem to matter if the letter is a symbol of female sexuality (which seems a bit much to me).As Derrida puts it, the letter has a “circular destination”(196) and wherever it ends up, for a long or short period of time, the reader or the possessor finds the letter’s truth and meaning for himself before it leaving his hands and finding a new place and a new significance in another.